In this post, I will tell you 40 things you have to do if you ever go to New Orleans.
This past Christmas holidays I traveled to one of those cities I always wanted to visit. It was in my “bucket list” for a long time. I am talking about New Orleans, in the state of Louisiana in the United States, also called NOLA –New Orleans of Louisiana-and the Big Easy, for the easy, quiet and placid way of life.
This city has deep roots in the Americal culture. For example, one of the greatest jazz musicians in history, Louis Armstrong, came from this city. One of his famous songs, “What a Wonderful World”, was, by the way, part of the soundtrack of my wedding ceremony. In this city, Anna Rice was inspired for writing her book “Interview with the Vampire“, which later would be become a blockbuster. Also, the famous Vampire series “The Originals” has been filmed here.
In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, the city was almost completely destroyed but it has resurfaced more strongly than ever.
There were a million reasons why I wanted to come to New Orleans. Its history marked by a mix of cultures, races and religions, its music, its food and its French and Spanish heritage are only a few reasons to visit it. The whole city is surrounded by a mystical, magical and mysterious atmosphere.
What usually happens to me is that if I want to visit a place so badly, I am always afraid to go with high expectations and then for some reasons, not liking it at the end. Thank God, this didn’t happen with New Orleans and I came back even more in love with this city.
Some people say that it is one of America’s most dangerous city, but this doesn´t have to scare you. I did not feel fear at any time or saw anything unusual or weird. Of course, you always have to be careful with your belonging and just avoid trouble with common sense, like in any other city of the world. But if you move around the main touristic areas, there shouldn’t be any problem.
Keep reading if you want to know what you have to see and what places you can’t miss here.
40 things to do in New Orleans
- You can’t leave New Orleans without walking through its famous French Quarter. It is one of the most lively and friendly neighborhoods in the city, both day and night. It houses a multitude of cafes, restaurants, shops, and bars with live music. This is where you will find the city’s most famous street, Bourbon Street (which by the way, the name isn’t related to the alcoholic spirit, but with the French Royal House)
- Be impressed by the city’s famous architecture with these wrought-iron, Spanish colonial-style balconies with wooden walls, known as Creole townhouses. They are everywhere and they are spectacular. Also typical here are the so-called shotgun houses, very narrow and elongated homes, and the Creole cottages, one-floor color-painted houses.
- Admire the Cathedral of St. Louis located in Jackson Square, where you will find a nice atmosphere thanks to street artists who sell paintings or play music in exchange for tips. In the past, when the city belonged to the Spaniards, the square was called Plaza de Armas.
- Sail along the bay on board the Natchez, one of the famous steamboats of New Orleans. Take the 2.30 pm tour, so you can eat on board buffet-based while listening to live Jazz. The ride lasts about 2 hours. You have more information here.
- Try the typical beignets of New Orleans in the Café du Monde. They are typical New Orleans sweets based on a fried dough that is sprinkled with powdered sugar. When they are eaten fresh and hot they’re delicious. This Cafe is one of the best places to try them, though due to the touristy of the site, you always have to wait for a long queue. You decide whether it is worth waiting or not;). If not, you can always come during the night, since it opens 24 hours.
- Go to LaBranche House, in Royal Street. It dates from 1835 and is one of the most famous and one of the most beautiful ones in my opinion. People say there are two ghosts in the house. This house belonged to a wealthy sugar planter, Mr. Labranche, who during his marriage he had a mistress named Melissa. After his death his widow, Mrs. La Branche, found out this and legend says that she drugged Melissa and chained her on the third floor, slowly starving her to death. They both roam the house they say.
- Listen to some Jazz at Preservation Hall. It’s one of the classics in New Orleans. It has shows every day. You can buy the tickets online in advance – at a higher price- or you can make the line for about 1-2 hours to enter paying less, about $20. In any case, my recommendation is that if you do not want to spend this money, you can listen to some jazz in other places for less money- keep reading to find out where-, and even on the street, for free.
- Visit the Voodoo Museum. Voodoo is a religious and spiritual cult with origin in West Africa that came to New Orleans by the slave trade of this region and also of the Caribbean islands such as Martinique and Haiti. It is characterized by making rituals, having amulets or Voodoo dolls -for the good and bad-.
- Contemplate the architecture of the Maison Perrilliat. It was built by François Marie Perrilliat as 3 residential houses where his family remained until 1867, but was later purchased by the photographer Antonie Constant who turned it into a photography studio.
- Take a walk around the colonnade shops in what is known as “French Market”.
- Have a drink at the Spotted Cat Music Club, on Frenchmen Street, while you listen to some Jazz.
- Take pictures to the houses of Marigny Street, the most colorful houses in New Orleans.
- Eat at the St. Roch market, where you will find from food cooked by the best local chefs as well as some of the best cocktails in the city. www.strochmarket.com
- Try the Poboys, whose name comes from “Poor boys”. It’s the typical snacks here. They are made with bread, lettuce, tomato, cabbage salad, and mayonnaise and stuffed with prawns or oysters battered and fried.
- Enjoy the beautiful garden of the Cafe Amelie sitting “al fresco”. While you can rest eating or drinking something, some days you can listen to some Jazz in the garden.
- See the City on board of a horse-carriages.
- Try one of the cupcakes from “Haydel´s Bake Shop”.
- Sip the city’s most famous cocktail, the “Hurricane” in the beautiful Tonique Bar.
- Try pizza from the Red Truck Clubhouse. This restaurant that belongs to the gallery of the same name, has very good pizzas but also the decor is amazing.
- Stop by the Mardi Gras Costumes and Culture Museum. Mardi Gras is how it is called the carnival celebrated in Louisiana, famous for its parades of floats, troupes, street parties and the necklaces that are thrown from the floors above to the people who pass under. The idea is that when you throw them they get directly into the head of the person below. The more necklaces, the better. Many girls show the breasts in order to the people throw more necklaces to them. These days are really out of control. In addition, New Orleans is the only city that allows drinking alcohol on the street. More info here.
- Visit the Museum of Death. It houses the world’s largest collection of material from serial killers, ancient funeral homes, witchcraft instruments, pet taxidermy, crime scene photographs and much more. Yes, this museum is not for all people. Although there is no minimum age to enter, since here they say “we all die”, it is true that it is recommended for adults only because there are too graphic or explicit materials for children. There has been a series of blackouts while visiting this museum, so they say that you really need to be prepared before coming inside. More info: http://www.museumofdeath.net/
- Listen to some Jazz at Cafe Beignet. This Cafe on Royal Street has a large terrace and always has jazz groups that play live. If you get a table you can ask for some drinks while listening to Jazz paying only what you consume. You don’t have to wait long since there are many tables. I definitely loved this place. TIP: It is perfect if you have small children since in the other places will not let you in and here they can be in the yard playing while you enjoy the music.
- Eat the famous New Orleans grilled oysters. They’re amazing!
- Dine at the Desire restaurant on the famous Bourbon Street. This restaurant is one of the most famous in the city. It is an iconic place, in the purest Broadway-style thanks to its luminous sign of the entrance that welcomes visitors. In fact, we were able to dine here because we had booked in advance. The food is delicious. There is a raw bar where the raw oysters are prepared. We ordered the “Louisiana Crab Cakes”, some grilled oysters, delicious! And the fried prawns battered with tartar sauce. They also have more New Orleans specialties, such as Gumbo, the “Cajun Jambalaya”, which is smoked pork, sausages, spices and rice; The “beans with smoked sausage and rice” or the “Trio Creole” which are the three plates together. Of course, you’re not going to get hungry after that, that’s for sure. The portions are also huge and the ambiance of the place is very nice. More info here.
- Go visit one of the sugar plantations in New Orleans. We visited the Destrehan Plantation, the oldest documented house in the Mississippi River Valley, dating from 1787 when the city was under Spanish control. During the nineteenth century, the plantation was a major producer of indigo and sugar cane. Its second owner, Jean-Nöel Destrehan, briefly held the position of first U.S. senator in Louisiana.
- Book a Swamp Tour and sight alligators. You can catch a boat and tour the Manchac, a swamp that is less than an hour from New Orleans. This city is surrounded by water everywhere and that’s because it’s below sea level. It is a very nice experience to do. It is also said that this swamp is haunted by the Rougarou, the Cajun version of the werewolf. Also here you have to fear the ghost of the famous Queen of Voodoo Julia Brown, who is buried in a cemetery that is in the same swamp and dating from 1915. We did a combined day tour and visited the plantation and did the swamp tour thanks to Grey Line Tours.
- Go shopping on the RiverWalk
- Ride the tram. I recommend you to take one of the old ones, as it is a symbol of the charm of the city. The tram here operates from 1835. The dark green St Charles Line is the oldest continuous service tram line in the world. It will leave you directly next to the Garden District. The ticket only costs 1.25 $.
- Admire the luxurious mansions of the Garden District, where some Hollywood celebrities own property, including Sandra Bullock, John Goodman, and Nicholas Cage. Even Bob Dylan rented a house here for a while.
- Visit Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. It is the most famous cemetery in New Orleans and one of the most famous in the United States, perhaps partly because Anna Rice was inspired to write her famous book “Interview with the Vampire.” After that, several series and films have been filmed here. It dates back to 1833. This land had previously been a plantation and some people who worked in the plantation had been buried here. As New Orleans is below sea level, the terrain is very swampy, so the graves instead of being underground as is common in cemeteries, here are buried in crypts above the ground.
- Take a walk around Magazine Street. This street is located in the Garden District and is very cute for walking, with nice cafes and shops. TIP : To go back to the French Quarter, from Magazine Street there is a bus, number 11, which leaves you on Canal Street.
- Have a coffee at The French Truck coffee.
- Visit the Tomb of the Queen of the Voodoo Marie Laveau in the Cemetery of St. Louis No. 1 where also some of the most important figures of the city are buried, as well as pirates, legendary madame of famous brothels, artists, etc. And also here you can see what will be the future tomb of Nicholas Cage.
- Go to the Museum of the Second World War.
- Take a look at the Lalaurie mansion, that belonged to Nicholas Cage for a while. It is said that this House is haunted and belonged to a high society serial killer, Madame Lalaurie, who tortured and killed her victims in the nineteenth century. Everything in New Orleans is surrounded by mystery.
- Go for lunch or dinner at Commander´s Palace restaurant, one of the most famous in New Orleans. It’s in an old Victorian house from 1893. You need to book in advance and wear formal clothes.
- Eat a hot dog in one of the Dag Dog restaurants in town. There is one on Frenchmen Street, but it is prettier the one in Magazine Street because it has a big terrace outside. https://www.datdog.com
- Sip a cocktail at the Carousel Bar. It is located within the famous Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans. Inside the bar, there is a Carousel of 25 seats. It has been named by Vogue as one of the top 20 bars in the world. You don’t have to be a guest to get into and try one of its famous cocktails. It usually has live jazz music. Among the famous celebrities who have enjoyed the drinks in this bar are Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and more recently, Michael Jordan or Dennis Quaid among many others.
- Taste their delicious Creole and Cajun food, which, in addition to their famous grilled oysters, include crab cakes, soups, lots of seafood and their famous Gumbo, a broth made of rice, meat and okra, a typical fruit of the gumbo African plant. Also typical is the Jambalaya, similar to paella with shellfish. You can even venture to ask for fried alligator.
- Visit City Park, one of the most visited parks in the United States. It’s even bigger than Central Park in New York. It is characterized by having the world’s largest collection of live oaks, some of them more than 600 years old.
Travel Quick Fact Sheet
In this section of the post, I make a short summary of the most practical information about the trip. You can save this Travel Quick Fact Sheet as an image on the Camera Roll, Pinterest, etc. For quick references during your trip. I hope you find it useful and if you want to know something more leave me the question in the comments or send an email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any questions, you can send me an email or write it in comments.
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Fiona MaiFebruary 27, 2019
The only thing I’d known about New Orleans was Louis Armstrong’s music. I now know much more about it thanks to your article. Can’t wait to visit this city and ride the old trams, visit the museum of death and eat the famous grilled oysters there!
EstherMarch 20, 2019
Oh yes, the oysters are delicious. Please let me know if you are going and what do you think about the city.
Christy MaurerFebruary 27, 2019
I have always wanted to visit New Orleans! Top on my list would be the cemetery. I think I’d skip the Voodoo places…they would creep me out!
EstherMarch 20, 2019
haha. they are something very curious to see but yes, I understand that it is not for all people. It really is a little creepy, but this city is really incredible!! Totally different from others.
Shane PratherFebruary 27, 2019
I have been dreaming of visiting NOLA for years! Top of my US cities bucket list. This guide was extremely helpful and will keep it handy!
EstherMarch 20, 2019
Thanks so much Shane. So nice that you find this post helpful. Hope you can go to NOLA soon.
Anwesha GuhaFebruary 28, 2019
I absolutely loved your photos of New Orleans. They are peppy and charming that it makes me to book my tickets to New Orleans right now! I especially loved to read the small story about Julia Borwn.
EstherMarch 20, 2019
Oh yes, that is quite a legend. Thanks so much, so glad that you like my post 🙂 I do appreciate.
Soumya GayatriFebruary 28, 2019
I had no idea I could do so much in New Orleans. I am very much a cultural traveler and all these things seem right down my alley. I would love to see the French Quarters and visit the Voodoo Museum. Trying out the beignets also sounds awesome.
khoingnMarch 1, 2019
I always love this type of post, it helps me sort out what to do at a destination easily. This time is New Orleans. Thank you!
EstherMarch 20, 2019
Thanks so much Khoingn!!! You will love NOLA 🙂
roselineMarch 1, 2019
I want to visit America. But I can’t stand the length of the flight to America. During this time I thought that America was a safe country, and people were friendly. Thank you for informing me through your article. Every building in the French market looks very unique and great for Instagram photos.
Epepa Travel BlogMarch 1, 2019
I have never been to New Orleans, but if I ever go to the USA, I will be happy to visit this city. It always seemed unusual and fascinating. Your photos are beautiful, I love these tones. The French Market seems to be a very colorful and cheerful place, I would gladly stroll there. You made a very good city guide, I will definitely use it when I’m in New Orleans.
HaileyMarch 1, 2019
This is a great list! I have been to NOLA a few times and loved reading about it from a foreign perspective. I agree it is one of America’s most culturally significant cities for many reasons. I’m so glad it met your expectations!
yuktiMarch 2, 2019
Wow, beautiful pictures of New Orleans and there so many things to do here. I would love to go for some shopping by the Riverwalk and even ride a tram too.
blair villanuevaMarch 8, 2019
I learned about New Orleans when it was featured in the movie “Chef” where it shows many interesting food spots. I would love to visit it when an opportunity arise 😀 And based on your story, it is very Instagram-worthy 😀
EstherMarch 20, 2019
Oh really? I had no idea. I need to watch that movie then. Thanks for letting me know.